Very early in the morning of October 7 my WhatsApp was filling quickly with messages of the horror unfolding in Israel. One message included words from my friend’s son, one of the young people at the music festival crying out, come save us they are slaughtering us. At first, I couldn’t even imagine what that meant.
Soon after that message I called Noam Harari. Noam Harari served as our community Shlicha, Israel emissary, for three years and is now a beloved member of my family. During her tenure, Noam provided creative, informative, and inspiring programs, despite the fact that part of her time here was during the COVID-19 shut down and she had to do many of her programs virtually instead of in person. Noam developed strong, meaningful, and lasting relationships, and became part of the Nashville Jewish community family. After finishing her assignment here, she returned to her family in Israel, were she now lives.
Recently, we arranged a zoom call program for Noam to share her own personal story from October 7. The terror, pain, fear, and confusion of that day are still evident in her voice, and she is still processing that day, and the ensuing days, as her sister continues to serve in the IDF, and many of Noam’s friends are being called back for reserve duty. Each day since has brought additional challenges and struggles, learning to cope with a reality that includes racing back and forth to bomb shelters several times a day, as the rockets continue to fly, and life remains fragile and vulnerable.
Before we ended the call, Noam wanted to share one final story, that of her friend and colleague, Dekel. Shortly after October 7, Dekel was among the thousands of IDF reservists called back to duty to defend Israel after the atrocities committed by Hamas. Noam said that Dekel would remind his mother, family, and friends, with these words. “Don’t forget to smile when you wake up. No matter how hard, try to be strong and to be there for each other.”
These became his final words, and how he will be remembered as a fallen soldier killed defending his country.
Can we live up to is challenge, to remember to smile? Can we find the resilience to stay strong during these dark days? Can we find the courage to take care of each other?
We must somehow find the way and to be together not only in grief, but also in joy. There is an old joke that Jewish holidays have a basic theme, they tried to kill us, they failed, let’s eat.
We now move towards Chanukah, when we rededicate ourselves in pride and purpose, to celebrate the light in the darkness, and embrace the miracles of life.
On December 12, the sixth night of Chanukah, step into the light and dedicate yourself to an evening of joy, celebration, and community by joining us for Jewish Community Night with the Nashville Predators. We have been invited to join the Predators for a Chanukah party, complete with with food and candle lighting, before cheering them on in their game against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Coming together in this way to celebrate both Chanukah and our Jewish community affords us a time and place to draw comfort and support from each other in these challenging days. We as Jews are not new to adversity. It is part of our history and being. In the newly released book, The Genius of Israel, the authors share that the succuss and resilience of both Israel and the Jewish people is a story of a diverse people and society built around the values of service, solidarity, and belonging. These values sustain us and provide the foundation of our work, both locally and globally. Let’s be together on December 12 to celebrate these values and use the bonds of Jewish peoplehood to lend the light and hope we need to remember to smile.
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